Jim Webb speaks truth to power (i.e., the WSJ)

Senator-elect Webb has a wonderful piece in today's Journal about the growing Eloi/Morlock bifurcation of America.

The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes.

He goes on to paint the implications in terms his WSJ audience understands...

America's elites need to understand this reality in terms of their own self-interest. A recent survey in the Economist warned that globalization was affecting the U.S. differently than other "First World" nations, and that white-collar jobs were in as much danger as the blue-collar positions which have thus far been ravaged by outsourcing and illegal immigration. That survey then warned that "unless a solution is found to sluggish real wages and rising inequality, there is a serious risk of a protectionist backlash" in America that would take us away from what they view to be the "biggest economic stimulus in world history."
-- Via the Wall Street Journal

Read the whole thing, it's a tasty treat -- and a clear shot across the bow. As in environmental issues, the Democrats have a perspective to share on economics which comprises the true cost of insane microdomain free market choices.

PCC: Wounded and dangerous

Just got back from a Portsmouth School Committee meeting where the PCC, dealt a setback in last week's elections, seemed as determined as ever to continue their assault on the school budget.

The main issue was a program audit. The Town Council voted to recommend the school committee conduct one, but subsequently determined that they didn't have the legal means to fund it. (According to the Town Charter, once the Tent Meeting happens, the Town Council cannot change the school committee's bottom line.)

So the school committee, logically, proposed earmarking that money in their budget. Red flags immediately went up, despite the motion being about "earmarking."

The school committee spent an hour dealing with vocal opposition from the 90% PCC audience, some of whom shouted from the back "Deficit spending!" (As if every day without a legal budget isn't already...) "We're passing motions...getting on the agenda, but nothing gets to the nut," said Superintendent Lusi, at one point, "This is where we are. Where do you want to go now?"

Eventually, they did at least pass the motion. But the PCC folks weren't happy with their pound of time. I saw a group of them up at the front of the room, accosting one of the failed Democratic candidates for the School Committee. "You're a bitch, you should go fuck yourself," said one PCC lady.

Some guy stepped in to intervene -- I heard words like "Council chambers, civil discourse" then the woman turned on him; face to face. "Why don't you get a job."

Guy looked to me like he had a job; late 40's, graying, nice slacks, carrying a notebook. Must have smelled her breath. "Why don't you go home and sober up," he said.

"You're the second person who said that to me," I heard her reply. Her husband wanted to take this guy's name, followed him all the way out to the front door, yelling at Jamie Heaney, the new guy on the School Committee, "Do you know who he is?"

I had to stop and thank Dr. Lusi for her restraint. I guess last week's election lulled me into a false sense of security. I should have realized that an animal -- or an organization -- is most dangerous when it is wounded.

Michael Moore's "Liberal's pledge to disheartened conservatives"

Worth taking a few minutes to read and sign Moore's pledge. It's not a "manifesto," it's not in-your-face, it's just a calm, clear articulation of what America voted for last week. Okay, so in the process, it highlights the differences between business as usual for the last few years and the new Congress, but that's only proper...

Dear Conservatives and Republicans,

I, and my fellow signatories, hereby make these promises to you:

1. We will always respect you for your conservative beliefs. We will never, ever, call you "unpatriotic" simply because you disagree with us. In fact, we encourage you to dissent and disagree with us.

2. We will let you marry whomever you want, even when some of us consider your behavior to be "different" or "immoral." Who you marry is none of our business. Love and be in love -- it's a wonderful gift.

3. We will not spend your grandchildren's money on our personal whims or to enrich our friends. It's your checkbook, too, and we will balance it for you.

4. When we soon bring our sons and daughters home from Iraq, we will bring your sons and daughters home, too. They deserve to live. We promise never to send your kids off to war based on either a mistake or a lie.
-- from A Liberal's Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives

He was foretold by Dawkins and South Park..the FSM appears!

Via Wired

For fellow Pastafarians, this is truly a day of celebration. What more proof could one require?

Read more about His Noodly Appendage or check out the Original Divine Illumination courtesy the Kansas School Board.

Veterans Day; remembering heroes

November 11th is always a sad day when there's a war on. Portsmouth buried another hero Rhode Island National Guardsman, Michael Weidemann, just yesterday.

On Veterans Day, I think about my uncle Arthur, who never said much about his time in the silent service during WWII, except the occasional remark about sleeping in a bunk next to the torpedos. I tell our son Jack that story whenever we visit Battleship Cove.

Or my mom's first husband, Jack Milley, who won the Silver Star at the battle of Leyte Gulf and came back from the South Pacific sick. Married only a couple of years, my mom moved to NY to be with him in a Naval Hospital while he died.

Or my dad, who was 4F because of truly horrible varicose veins in his legs. He spent the war working in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and one of his proudest mementos (he was not a vain man, but he had framed this) was a certificate from the Navy congratulating him on his contribution to the war effort.

But this year, I'm thinking about all the folks -- the young and the not so young, men and women -- all far away from home in a dangerous place. And all the families who have had to endure the knock on the door. And the ones who live in fear of that, every day.

This is not a time for politics. This is a time to honor.

Brooklyn pizza

Having grown up around the corner from an extremely authentic Brooklyn pizza parlor, the kind of place that grew their own tomatoes in a little back yard garden, I will be interested to see how Dominos has implemented "Brooklyn-style pizza." The commercials certainly make some powerful claims.

They've also ticked off long-time Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz.

“It’s a multinational right-wing company, mass marketing the Brooklyn attitude with obsolete ethnic stereotypes, not to mention flimsy crusts,” he said through a spokesman. -- via the New York Times

And don't get me started on what Dunkin Donuts calls bagels...

Bush admits lying

This is not just a fib, or carefully crafted elision. This is the President of the United States admitting in today's press conference that he full-on lied about Donald Rumsfeld last week, purely for political purposes. I mean, he just flat-out says it:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Last week you told us that Secretary Rumsfeld will be staying on. Why is the timing right now for this, and how much does it have to do with the election results?

THE PRESIDENT: Right. No, you and Hunt and Keil came in the Oval Office, and Hunt asked me the question one week before the campaign, and basically it was, are you going to do something about Rumsfeld and the Vice President? And my answer was, they're going to stay on. And the reason why is I didn't want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of a campaign. And so the only way to answer that question and to get you on to another question was to give you that answer.
-- from the official White House transcript

Clearly, as Rush might say, he was off his medication today, just for effect.

Dems hold Portsmouth; PCC fails to garner mandate

The true majority has spoken, and Portsmouth made a balanced decision yesterday, keeping a Democratic majority and adding one Republican each to the School Committee and Town Council. In a race that was run largely on the Tent Meeting ("We won't walk out on you" was the Republicans' campaign slogan) this clearly sends a message. "Reality-based" trumps ideology.

Unofficial results (with all precincts and mail ballots now counted) put the Council at 5 Dem 2 Republican and 1 Independent. The School Committee picked up 1 new R, but in a significant message, Richard Carpender, chair of the Finance subcommittee and visible face of the budget process, was returned to office.

Visit the RI Board of Elections for the details.

Oh, and the Democrats took the House, and maybe the Senate.

It sucks to be Chafee. I genuinely feel sorry about that.

Down to the wire -- Chafee tracking via Pollster

Don't know if there are any polls coming out this weekend, but the story this chart tells is already pretty interesting.

Chafee Polls final

[Note: Live chart replaced with static graphic 11/8. No need for updates.]

PCC turns its back on budget reality -- letter to Sakonnet Times

Until Monday, October 30, Portsmouth could have been forgiven for underestimating the PCC. That's the point where they turned their backs on reality-based accounting, lawyered up, and went looking for people to sue.

The facts about the schools' financial condition became clear Friday, 10/27, at a joint workshop with the Council and the School Committee. Based on analysis by independent auditors B&E, the Tent Meeting budget underfunded operation of the schools by $770,167. If no action is taken, Portsmouth will be running a system in violation of state law by the end of the year.

The B&E accountant cautioned against jumping to an adversarial Caruolo action. "Caruolo," he said, "is not a prudent budget." In an adversarial action, the judge only looks to get the schools legal for this fiscal year; any cash reserves and warrant items would get eaten up with no thought of the future. With the coming RI state tax caps, said B&E, this would only exacerbate the situation next year.

The non-adversarial option, a stipulated agreement where the Council and the School Committee go to a judge with a modified budget, seems the rational approach. But the PCC moved to block that.

At the workshop, their attorney advanced the theory that since the Council could not change the budget post-Tent -meeting, they were technically unable to deny the School Committee's request for additional funding. Since that 'no' vote is required by Caruolo, no action -- or stipulated agreement -- would be available.

Advocating such a position, in and of itself, is not problematic. Everyone has the right to vigorous representation, and you have to respect the process. But at Monday's meeting, the town solicitor announced that the PCC had sent a letter threatening the Town Council -- and the members individually -- with legal action if they took _any_ vote on the school's request.

To their credit, the Council ignored the threat, on advice of counsel, and voted to deny additional funding, clearing the way for the school to pursue alternatives.

We all want to pay lower taxes. We might look at the B&E report and suspect additional efficiencies could be wrung out of the system. If we are of a paranoid disposition, we might even want another audit to confirm the precise numbers.

But when a professional auditor -- who can lose their license if they lie on the stand -- tells you that the budget is $700K short, a reasonable person will accept that the cuts were too deep. There were proposals at the Tent Meeting that would have put the budget in the ballpark. But Larry Fitzmorris, head of the PCC, said at the Friday workshop that the tent meeting was "not the place to compromise."

No compromise, no acknowledgment that this is a crisis of the PCC's making, and now, threats to sue our elected officials collectively and individually. Threats, by the way, which the town solicitor characterized as "outrageous and irresponsible," and possible grounds for a response in the form of legal action for a frivolous lawsuit.

All you PCC supporters -- is this really what you signed on for?

John G. McDaid

[Ran in today's edition. No online link available yet.]